Collecting Child Support From an Unwilling Parent

Collecting Child Support From an Unwilling Parent

If you’re the custodial parent of your child and you’re having trouble collecting child support payments from the other noncustodial parent, you’re certainly not alone. Each year, hundreds of single parents face legal battles because their former partner is unable or unwilling to pay child support.

The thing about child support is that it is court-mandated, and failing to make payments on time can lead to serious consequences. In addition to facing additional fines and even jail time, parents who fail to make their payments could lose their driver’s license, occupational license, or any other professional license they need for employment or recreational purposes. They may also see a significant decrease in their credit score because unpaid child support can be reported to credit agencies. 

There are several ways that the court can collect child support payments. Some of the most common approaches are listed below:

  • Wage Garnishment: It’s completely legal for a child support agency to garnish a parent’s wages if he/she isn’t making child support payments on time. This involves going to the parent’s employer and automatically taking out a portion of the parent’s paycheck before they receive anything. 
  • Seizure of Bank Accounts and Liens on Property: The court may seize personal bank accounts or place liens on personal property (such as real estate, vehicles, or other significant assets) until all child support debts are paid.
  • Injury Settlement: If a parent falls behind on child support payments and is later awarded a personal injury settlement, the court may be entitled to confiscate some or all of that settlement. Although a personal injury lawyer can help fight for an injured plaintiff’s rights to collect compensation, s/he cannot protect that settlement from the courts if the parent is behind on payments.
  • Criminal Warrants: If a parent is severely behind on child support payments, state prosecutors may get involved and issue a criminal warrant for that parent’s arrest. These arrests can lead to jail time, fines, or both.  
  • Civil Warrants: Custodial parents who are owed child support payments can file a warrant through civil court stating that their child’s other parent is in contempt of court. Being in contempt of court can lead to additional fines and jail time.

Many parents who fall behind on child support payments mistakenly think that filing for bankruptcy will allow them to avoid making back payments. This is false. Although bankruptcy courts can discharge many debts, child support debts are one of the few debts that cannot be discharged or lessened at all. If your child’s other parent is considering filing for bankruptcy, know that the judge will likely prioritize assisting in the creation of a debt repayment plan that includes child support debts. 

If your former partner isn’t paying court-ordered child support, remember that you have legal options available. If you and your former partner never created an official child support payment plan, to begin with, contact a child support family lawyer, such as The Law Office of Daniel J. Wright, as soon as possible to discuss how you may request one.